Puck Daddy - NHL

  • (Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers who hated them the most. Here is hockey writer Brian Palmer, who inexplicably requested the Tampa Bay Lightning. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)

    By Brian Palmer

    Ten years ago during the halcyon days of the clutch and grab NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning captured the imagination of dozens of Central Floridians and convicted felons with a wild run to the Stanley Cup Final.

    Led by opportunistic super fan and advanced stats guru Hulk Hogan (A player’s Hogan Rating is calculated by measuring the ratio of shots directed at the net to leg drops, brother), the Bolts beat the Calgary Flames in 7 games to claim the only Stanley Cup in the franchise’s 22-year history.

    “HoganClose rating is the number of Suburban Commando references in the third period of a one goal game”

    The NHL responded by shutting the league down for an entire season, hoping the hockey world would be cool about it, and forget that a team from Florida (gross) ever won the Cup. The Lightning franchise has done its part, barely making a peep for the last decade, save for the occasional Len Barrie punch line or bad breakup with a franchise icon.

    This year’s edition of the Tampa Bay Lightning has proudly carried on this tradition of anonymity. Swept in four easy games by the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa earns the dishonor of being the first team eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Max Pacioretty’s power play game-winning goal with 43 seconds left was the final insult, allowing the Lightning to embrace their destiny to be quickly forgotten by everyone.

    “Who’d we beat in the first round PK?” “I’m not sure Carey. One great player, bad D, mediocre goalie; maybe the Capitals?”

    It’s fitting that following a season in which Martin St. Louis, their captain, leading scorer in team history, Napoleon Complex awareness spokesman, and one of only two Lightning players you’ve heard of, demanded a trade, the Lightning will suffer the indignity of being eulogized here by an unknown hockey writer. Tampa just doesn’t inspire strong feelings. They’re hockey’s “meh team”, the Bran Stark storyline of the NHL. They’re just the team you see when your family takes a trip to Disney World during March Break.

    But after much digging, I found four reasons to hate the Lightning:

    They hate proper grammar: Writing “the Lightning are” just feels weird and wrong.

    They ruin divisions: The awesome “Chuck Norris” Division of the 80’s was besmirched when Tampa joined Detroit, Toronto, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Chicago in 1993. Now they play in the Atlantic Division, when they’re clearly on the Gulf of Mexico.

    They’re the Dawn Summers of the NHL.

    “Things were great before you got here Tampa Bay. Now it’s only intermittently good with frustrating character development.”

    Horrible owners: Somehow the Southern parody that called Vincent Lecavalier the “Michael Jordan of hockey” is only the third worst owner in team history. (Yakuza ties and hiring Barry Melrose to coach in 2008 are tied for worst).

    They erected a statute of Phil Esposito: Presumably for acquiring Chris Gratton. Twice.

    “This statue has some great stories about the Bobby Orr statue in Boston.”

    Now that your blood is boiling with hatred for the Florida team that sucks less often than the other one, let’s remember everyone that contributed to the latest Tampa failure.

    General Manager Steve Yzerman

    Stevie Y inexplicably didn’t include the moody Martin St. Louis on the initial roster for Canada’s Olympic team, despite being the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner and pleading desperately to be included. This led directly to the messiest divorce this side of Victor Newman (Blatant pandering to Tampa’s senior citizen population, which comprise 75% of the Lightning’s fan base).

     

     “What Gary Bettman sees when he looks in the mirror.”

    Apparently St. Louis' massive thighs hide a fragile soul, because he immediately demanded a trade closer to his home in the Shire. And because Yzerman skipped the Conflict Resolution class at GM school, he had no choice but to deal the heart and soul of his franchise to the Rangers. In return he got a pending UFA and couple of draft picks that will become players just as Yzerman is becoming the President of Hockey Operations for the Ottawa Senators. (He grew up there! And the Lowe Act, recently passed by Canadian Parliament, requires all Canadian NHL teams to be run by local boys in order to bring about a culture change.)

    What brings this to a Mike Milbury level of stupid is that Yzerman weakened his own team for ultimately little gain. St. Louis remains an elite player and having him on Canada’s roster would have been easily defendable. What’s more, Canada was so stacked that John Scott could have been the 13th forward and they still would have won gold. Have fun explaining the lost playoff revenue to your owner, Stevie!

    Head Coach Jon Cooper

    Considering the best coach in Lightning history is John “Loose Cannon” Tortorella, the Brian Pillman of NHL bench bosses, Jon Cooper doesn’t really have a lot to live up to in Tampa. Yet after curiously trolling the Habs after going down 2-0 in the series, Montreal scored 11 seconds into Game 3 and never looked back.

    As an encore, Cooper decided being down 3-0 was the perfect time to practice his comedy skills by pretending to be a reporter interviewing Steven Stamkos.

     “The man Louis CK looks up to.”

    They lost Game 4 too.

    Jon Cooper is going to be a great addition to Sportnet’s 2015 Trade Deadline coverage team.

    Last Superstar In Town Steven Stamkos

    Selfishly broke his leg and missed half the regular season.

    Although he kind of looks like circa 1984 Wayne Gretzky, he probably knows now that it’s easier to lead your team to victory when your teammates are Mark Messier and Jari Kurri and not something called an Ondrej Palat.

    Goaltender Ben Bishop

    Speaking of selfish injuries, Bishop picked a horrible time to hurt his elbow. Unless of course it was part of his master plan to show Vezina voters how bad Tampa’s defense actually is. Be sure to thank Anders Lindback in your speech too, Big Ben!

    Formerly Relevant Ryan Callahan

    Faster than you can say “David Clarkson”, pending UFA Ryan Callahan has gone from indispensable captain of the New York Rangers to pointless in 4 playoff games.

    Sadly, the Oilers just lowered their July 1st contract offer to Callahan down to $52.5 million over 7 years.

    Other Lightning Forwards

     

     

     

     

     

    Nope, they didn’t show up here either.

    The 2013-14 Tampa Bay Defense Corps

    Are Eric Brewer and Sami Salo really part of Tampa’s top six defensemen? Is Joe Reekie back there too? Only the most hardcore Lightning fans would be able to tell you for certain, but he’s working late tonight at Denny’s so you’ll just have to trust me that Brewer and Salo are totally defensemen on a playoff team in 2014. It’s amazing they didn’t lose this series in three games.

    Victor Hedman’s there too, whose mention would make Lightning fans angry that the team passed on Matt Duchene with the second overall pick in 2009, if they had ever seen a Western Conference game and knew who Matt Duchene was.

    Whether old and useless or young and useless, every Tampa defenseman came together to leave Lindback hung out to dry as much as possible. Apparently they didn’t realize that, much like the dancers at Chez Parée, you can make contact with the Montreal forwards.

    Final Thoughts

    This is the most anyone has ever thought about the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 2013-14 edition of the squad will be quickly forgotten by the hockey world, as well it should be. Not good enough to be lamented, not horrible enough to be interesting, the 2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning are the most Lightning team that ever Lightninged.

     ***

    Brian Palmer (@the_real_palmer) is a freelance hockey writer from London, Ontario. He holds an English degree from the University of Western Ontario, which he parlayed into a cushy Toronto marketing job after only 8 years of bouncing around. Cursed by his father to be a Maple Leafs fan, he now takes pleasure in the misfortunes of other NHL failures.

  • LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

    It's a Thursday edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

    Special Guest Star: Rick Tocchet on the Rangers and Flyers.

    • Stunners for Stars and Jackets.

    • The Matt Cooke suspension.

    • The Selke Trophy

    • Tonight's playoff action.

    Question of the Day: Who is your Conn Smythe Trophy leader? Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarek. Click here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

    Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or Feedburner.

  • The NHL did a smart thing on Wednesday night.

    It wasn’t the Matt Cooke suspension, at least in the eyes of those who feel he got off lightly, but it was the timing of that suspension announcement: Well after the East Coast news cycle, well into that night’s action in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    Instead of having hockey fans pouring rage all over social media during the day about Cooke’s punishment, the news dropped within hours of two overtime thrillers and a stunning upset in Dallas. Matt Cooke’s suspension was now, at best, the fourth headline of the evening.

    That’s not to say fans and media weren’t outraged over the Minnesota Wild forward getting off with an “inadequate” and a “joke” of a suspension. But after predictions ranging from two rounds to the rest of the playoffs, seven games felt … anti-climatic.

    The question then becomes why Cooke, who had been suspended six times in his career, didn’t face the same harsh punishment as, say, Raffi Torres did for putting Marian Hossa on a stretcher.

    So how did the NHL arrive at seven games?

    The Incident

    Here’s the Player Safety video on the hit:

    The comparable play for the NHL was Kevin Porter’s knee-on-keen with David Booth in 2011, which earned him four games:

    Now, Porter might have actually made more of an effort to deliver a check than Cooke did, but the plays are similar: Leading with the knee. In Cooke’s case, there was a sense that Tyson Barrie tried to avoid the hit, which no doubt contributed to the injury – but what else was he supposed to do?

    The Penalty

    Simply put, the NHL sees the severity of the crime differently when it comes to kneeing vs. hits to the head or dangerous plays on the board.

    As has been pointed out, Cooke’s seven games is the second-longest ban in League history for kneeing after Bryan Marchment’s eight games in 1998 for a hit on Kevin Dineen. The biggest suspension for kneeing given out by the Department of Player Safety since its founding was five games for James Neal on Brad Marchand, but that was a knee to the head.

    So this was a massive suspension, given the previous rulings on the infraction.

    The Philosophy

    The Department of Player Safety’s philosophy under Brendan Shanahan was that the incremental increases for suspensions were for specific repeated behavior. Torres, for example, couldn’t stop hitting people in the head, so when the Marian Hossa hit happened it was, like, ‘Strike 10.’

    Cooke had a similar body of work: Elbows and boarding penalties and head shots, illegal and whatever the hell the NHL determined the Marc Savard hit to be. But not kneeing, which meant that the escalating suspensions for his illegal hits didn’t necessarily extend to this incident.

    Maybe you agree with that approach, maybe you think criminality is criminality, but that’s the way the NHL sees it.

    Also keep in mind that despite having a few hits that involved the knee recently, Cooke had not been formally warned by the NHL not to deliver them. Please recall Alex Edler of the Vancouver Canucks had been warned about “reverse hits” before he kabonged Tomas Hertl. If Cooke had been warned, it was through informal communication with the League and Shanahan.

    The Aesthetics

    You have to boil down the NHL’s approach to massive suspensions to this, but there’s getting around it: Stretcher equals severity.

    Torres put Hossa on a stretcher. Shawn Thornton put Brooks Oprik on a stretcher. Max Lapierre put Dan Boyle on a stretcher. And so on.

    If Tyson Barrie had to be carted off the ice because he was unable to walk, I’d wager we’d see a larger suspension for Cooke. It’s just the way things roll in the NHL. But he hobbled off the ice.

    ***

    Was seven games enough for Cooke?

    We figured it was going to be in the range of 11 games, which would have been the rest of this round and the next. Seven games comes in under that, but still puts him out for this round and three playoff games in the following round if the Wild advance.

    As we said, the last three years earned Cooke the benefit of the doubt on his being a “reformed” player. Seven games for Cooke, despite his past, would seem to indicate the NHL believes the same -- or at least believes that a knee is different than the head.

    UPDATE: Here's Cooke's statement today, via Michael Russo:

    “First and foremost, I want to say that I’m disappointed and sorry that Tyson Barrie can’t play for the Colorado Avalanche tonight. I wish that he could. Unfortunately, it was not my intent to collide with him knee-on-knee. It was my intent to finish my check. Playoffs are a hard and physical time and it’s my job to be physical. I’ve led my team in hits in all three games and it’s an intense time. I’ve led my team this year in hits and in this series. 

    “Since March 20, 2011 (the elbow to Ryan McDonagh that resulted in a 17-game suspension), I’ve been a changed player. I’ve approached the game differently, I think differently about the game. That stats that I’ve collected over those three seasons prove that I’m a changed player and the plays that I make and the plays that I don’t make prove to that point as well. At the end of the day, this situation was not my intent.”

  • Patrick Kane played the hero for the Chicago Blackhawks in Wednesday night's Game 4 with the St. Louis Blues, scoring the 4-3 overtime winner to send the series back to St. Louis tied at two games apiece. His reward: a media scrum, where he would be asked questions about the goal he just scored.

    One such question: "Patrick, was this your first overtime game-winner?"

    "I'll have to check that," Kane responds, "I think I've got a couple."

    Kane's actually got 4 overtime winners in his career -- three in the postseason, and one in the regular season.

    You could expect someone to forget that last one, which was his first one. It came over six years ago, on March 23, 2008, and even though it was the first OT winner of Kane's career, it was a regular-season winner in a year where the Blackhawks didn't make the postseason. That could slip one's mind. 

    But a few of the others are pretty memorable. Kane's got something of a reputation for scoring big goals.

    Off the top of my head -- and most every other hockey fan's head, for that matter -- is the one he scored that won the Chicago Blackhawks the Stanley Cup back in 2010. That was a fairly notable overtime game-winner. Again: it was immediateiy followed by the raising of the Stanley Cup:

    It's hardly the only one, though.

    Last postseason, when the Blackhawks also won the Cup, Kane scored the series winner in overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final versus the Los Angeles Kings.

    Considering it was also a hat trick goal, it came in double overtime (which tends to be twice as memorable), it propelled the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final, and it was basically the impetus for Kane winning the Conn Smythe trophy six games later, you'd think that one wouldn't have escaped someone's memory.

    Especially not someone based in Chicago, let alone someone who's been there to interview Kane for both of his other playoff overtime goals:

    Kusinski, who works for NBC Chicago, explained in a tweet, since deleted, that she was trying to lead Kane into talking about his past winners.

    "I did ask Kane about GW in OT, trying to lead him into talking about the others - He didn't, and question fell flat," she tweeted.

    Fair enough. One would argue that the question fell flat because it sounded like you didn't know Patrick Kane had ever done this before, and it's hard to give a credible answer to a question so incredible.

    s/t to Deadspin.

  • Whether or not you’re pulling for the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round 1 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins, let’s agree on one thing: Seeing this long-suffering fan base finally get a taste of playoff drama, let alone success, is a heartwarming thing.

    So maybe it’s that or maybe it’s the unrivaled moment in pro sports that is a Stanley Cup Playoffs overtime goal … whatever it is, this raw audio of the Nationwide Arena crowd after Nick Foligno’s overtime goal gave us the chills:

    If nothing else, the goal ensured we get to see and hear these Jackets fans again for Game 6.

    Thanks to 97.1 The Fan for the clip and No Slack Delta for the scoop.

  • Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks are the three finalists for the 2013-14 Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” the National Hockey League announced on Thursday.

    The Professional Hockey Writers Association votes on the award, and these are the top three vote-getters.

    Toews won the award last season, while Bergeron won it in 2011-12. This is Kopitar’s first appearance as a finalist, coming in fourth in the voting last season.

    Before we break down the finalists, let’s talk about criteria.

    The Selke is, for my money, the NHL Award that most lends itself to advanced stats. That’s a good thing, because it’s an award that shouldn’t simply be judged on faceoff wins, plus-minus and shorthanded ice time.

    And yet, if you read the descriptions of the finalists, that’s pretty much all that’s mentioned.

    This isn’t to say that the PHWA voters followed these old tropes as a guide to their nominations; I can say for a fact that I know a few dozen voters that take things like corsi rel, zone starts and quality of competition into account for their Selke and Norris voting. It’s to say that the NHL, in its press materials for this award, doesn’t mention any of those metrics does a disservice to the nominees.

    What’s more impressive? Knowing that Bergeron is a plus-38 or knowing that his team produces 9.7 percent more shots than their opponents when Bergeron is on the ice vs. when he’s off?

    Hopefully the League can catch up to its voters when it comes to measuring the success of its awards nominees.

    So who wins the Selke?

    Why Patrice Bergeron Deserves The Selke

    From the NHL:

    Bergeron led the NHL in face-off wins with 1,015 -- the most by any player in the past seven seasons -- as the Bruins posted the best defensive record in the Eastern Conference and second-best in the League overall (2.08 goals per game). He ranked second in the NHL in plus-minus with a career-high +38 rating and led all Bruins forwards in average ice time playing shorthanded (1:57). Bergeron is a Selke Trophy finalist for the third consecutive season; he captured the award in 2012 and finished runner-up to Toews in 2013.

    That faceoff win total is pretty incredible when he consider that Bergeron starts 34.4 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, more than any other Bruin, including Zdeno Chara. What an asset for the Bruins.

    Why Anze Kopitar Deserves The Selke

    From the NHL:

    Kopitar appeared in all 82 games and logged more ice time (1,712:45) than all NHL forwards except Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the club that allowed a League-low average of 2.05 goals per game. He logged the most shorthanded time (164:53) among the League's top 30 scorers, led the Kings and tied for fourth in the NHL in plus-minus with a career-high +34 rating and won 53.3% of his 1,451 face-offs. Kopitar is a Selke Trophy finalist for the first time and becomes the first Kings player in franchise history to garner a Selke nomination.

    West Coast Guilt prevails! Just kidding … although the campaigning for Kopitar from the left coast was palpable. Luckily, he's earned it: Kopitar is the best possession forward on the team and his line draws the toughest defensive assignments.

    Why Jonathan Toews Deserves The Selke

    From the NHL:

    Toews placed fifth in the NHL in both face-off wins (884) and percentage (57.2%) in taking 1,544 draws, nearly double the total of the next Blackhawks center. He topped all Chicago forwards in average ice time per game (20:28) and ranked second on the club in takeaways (51) and plus-minus (+26), including a cumulative +7 rating against top Conference rivals Anaheim, Colorado, St. Louis and San Jose. A Selke finalist for the third time in four years, the Blackhawks captain is in quest of a repeat win after capturing the award for the first time in 2012-13.

    Like his fellow nominees, Toews draws the toughest defensive assignments among Blackhawks forwards and his possession numbers are by far the best on the team. Like Bergeron, a defensive player whose prowess is evident on every shift.

    Who Wins The Selke?

    Bergeron. If it wasn’t for Toews we could be witnessing a Lidstrom-like run of Selke wins for one of the best faceoff men in NHL history. Bergy gets his second Selke this season.

    Our Ballot

    1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Cap …

    … Wait, that was our discarded one, hang on …

    1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

    2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

    3. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

    4. Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado Avalanche

    5. David Backes, St. Louis Blues

    Bergeron’s on another planet. Kopitar doesn’t have Toews’ faceoff numbers, their quality of competition figures are negligible, but the way Kopitar drives possession for the best defensive team in the West, combining defense with offense, puts him in the second slot. O’Reilly led the league in takeaways (83) and played a solid 200-foot game this season. Backes defers to Vlad Sobotka as the Blues’ faceoff leader but his line drew the toughest defensive assignments for St. Louis.

  • By popular demand, Puck Daddy takes its Conn Smythe Watch from the evening Three Stars to every morning of the postseason. Keep in mind that we factor in the probability of a long playoff run into these choices. Who are the current favorites for playoff MVP? Glad you asked.

    1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

    Rask has an 0.67 GAA and a .976 save percentage through three games, which is pretty good if you like dominant goaltenders, we guess. He’s yet to surrender a power-play goal.

    2. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

    Marleau has three goals and two assists thus far in the postseason, including the overtime game winner in Game 3. You know, folks, he might actually not be gutless. Just a hunch.

    3. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

    The Blues have 11 goals in the postseason and Tarasenko has four of them, to lead all playoff scorers. That includes the game-tying goal with seven seconds left in Game 2.

    4. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

    While teammate Paul Stastny has the goals (3), MacKinnon has the notoriety with his speed and playmaking ability, amassing seven points (1 goal, 6 assists). His line drove the Avalanche to two wins on home ice; his line’s absence from the score sheet was the reason they lost Game 3.

    5. Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets

    The Olympic snub has five points in the Jackets’ series against Pittsburgh, including goals in the first three games. More importantly, he’s helpingt to shut down his good friend Sidney Crosby. He’s averaging 29:36 per night.

    6. Marty St. Louis, New York Rangers

    This is why the Rangers made that blockbuster deal: He’s tallied a point in each of the three games in the series vs. Philly, including two points in each of their victories. Two goals, three assists and looking like he’s finally figuring things out.

    7. Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

    The Habs have a lot of heroes after the first round, but we’ll give this wrecking ball of a player his due for three goals and two assists in limited ice time. He’s a pace setter.

    8. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

    The reigning Conn Smythe winner has three goals and an assist, including the OT game winner in Game 4, to help the Blackhawks even their series with the Blues.

    9. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

    The heart and soul of the Stars, he has three goals and an assist in the series, including goals in their two wins in Dallas.

    10. Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins

    Martin actually leads the postseason with eight points, all of them assists, and a plus-5 (tied with MacKinnon).

  • [Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    6. Not being able to see a few hours into the future

    On Monday I brought up Matt Cooke's status as a repeat offender who was told to stop acting like a piece of garbage who tried to injure everyone all the time, and did so successfully across three seasons for two different teams.

    But then about 10 hours after that published, Cooke went knee-to-knee on Tyson Barrie, and every columnist who never forgave him or thought they saw through his pretty transparent media campaign following his alleged transformation into St. Francis of Assisi got to break out a ladder and clamber back up on their high horses for the first time in nearly a thousand days and scream from the mountaintops, “See?!”

    Of course, if he had gone the remainder of his career without doing this, we likely would have seen him cursed regardless, because just as Cooke was not allowed to change his stripes in their eyes, their opinions of players must likewise remain uniform forever. Think corsi's bad? Sure you do, it didn't exist seven or eight years ago and therefore has no value. Think fighting's good? Of course it is, because Bobby Orr fought and hell if Bobby Orr did it then it must be perfectly acceptable. The way you think about things must not change ever because what if a team fights and outperforms its underlying stats on the way to a Stanley Cup? You'd have no way to explain it, and your new beliefs would have failed you.

    So yes, I made an horrific mistake in saying that Matt Cooke hadn't re-offended in three years. Because what I meant to say was that he would reoffend after three years and 10 hours. You got me.

    5. Reform

    Incidentally, I don't know if anyone ever thought there wasn't this injurious player, bereft of respect, lurking somewhere inside Cooke all along. I think the people who had seen him go three years without trying to end someone's career — which, let's be clear, is more or less what happened on Monday night — and assumed that he'd at least gotten himself under control. And it's important to note that there's a difference between the two. Addicts are always addicts, regardless of whether they relapse three years after vowing to be better, or never.

    Turned out that the beast in Cooke was indeed caged by frail and fragile bars, and one assumes that with the way he's been running around throwing checks in this series that he's been ordered to play with more of an edge. Colorado is a fast team, after all, and one way to slow them down (in theory) is to finish your checks. At least in the theory advanced by old-school hockey types. So Cooke was out there trying to slow guys down as best he could by hitting everything within hitting distance and in doing so put Tyson Barrie on the shelf for four to six weeks, probably the remainder of the Avs' season.

    Predictable, really. Same reason you don't give an alcoholic a job as a bartender. The problem, obviously, is that you can't ask Cooke to do anything but kill penalties and maybe get out there for a few defensive-zone draws before you start putting him in a position where he could hurt someone. You ask him to start sending a message, this is what you get.

    It is on Mike Yeo a little bit, because he seems to have asked someone like Cooke, with this history, to “play on the edge,” and he demonstrably has no ability to discern what is and isn't over it. Cooke will get suspended for a lot of games, and he'll deserve every one of them.

    4. Sportsmanship and bad awards

    Everyone knows the Lady Byng award is a joke that no one cares about. Martin St. Louis, pouty little trade-demanding crybaby that he is, being nominated for it this season is pretty solid evidence thereof. If “sportsmanship,” or whatever, now includes demanding a trade because you were left off an Olympic team you eventually made, then sure, St. Louis is your guy.

    This isn't an award worth voting on any more. Who's the guy with a decent number of points and games played, with the least penalty minutes? He's the winner. Ryan O'Reilly had one minor all season (and that for playing with a broken stick), he's your guy. That's a tap-in.

    So here's what needs to happen: Change the award to something like the Art Ross or Rocket Richard or Jennings, a statistical award so everyone knows who wins the second the season ends. Penalty minutes per point or something like that.

    Or, you make it the thing that the Masterton has become: An award for a likeable old guy who's just been around for a million years. Then you get to stop nominating one player from every team for the Masterton, which in a lot of ways takes away from the guys who are actually going through some stuff; Josh Harding and Dominic Moore deserve to stand apart from Daniel Alfredsson, who chose to play a game for another year in exchange for millions of dollars, rather than not-do that. They're not equivalent. Let's stop pretending.

    3. Rookies

    This has been a season replete with a number of spectacular performances from first-year players, and that trend has continued in the playoffs. Prior to Tuesday night's games, there were seven rookies (Brian Gibbons, Tomas Hertl, Torey Krug, Colton Sceviour, Boone Jenner, Matt Nieto, and of course Nathan MacKinnon) who'd posted at least a point a game, and many more were having a significant influence even beyond the scoreboard.

    Ryan Murray's getting 25 minutes a night on average (brought up by 30:23 in Game 2), Olli Maata's playing a solid defensive role on the other side of the ice. Luke Glendening and Danny DeKeyser are getting important minutes for Detroit in shutting down Boston's scoring lines, and so on. Jason Akeson is getting some extremely tough zone starts for a team being dominated in possession, and yet remains one of the only Flyers in positive territory. Erik Haula is likewise at the top of the list for the Wild despite starting about three-quarters of his shifts in the offensive zone.

    Granted it's only a few games, but sometimes it's just nice to think about this kind of thing, because so much attention is paid to the league's current stars. The future's looking pretty decent too.

    2. Lack of respect

    So much hemming and hawing in this league over the fact that players don't respect each other, and a lot of it is deserved. You just need to look at the incidents that have piled up since the playoffs began, whether they rose to the level of requiring supplementary discipline or not, and see that no, there's not really a lot of respect in the game.

    Which is what makes everyone's insistence on tweeting and talking about the need for so-and-so to “stay classy” so hilarious. There was a huge uproar over the fact that a Blackhawk said to a probably-concussed David Backes “Wakey wakey” — and that a moron Blackhawks fan decided to make a shirt about it — and yet less of an uproar over the fact that Backes was concussed with a clearly illegal hit. Everyone just shrugged their shoulders and accepted it as “part of the game.”

    Obviously the rules are different for coaches and players are punished, but Joel Quenneville's fine for grabbing his crotch should not, in a rational world, be five times the size of Milan Lucic's for spearing Danny DeKeyser's for him.

    It's not that the league needs to “lighten up” or anything like that. It's that the league and its observers (fan and media alike) needs to get things straight and start treating things with the gravity due them. A concussion is a lot more serious than a player making fun of the concussion, but the player making fun of it highlights the league's culture problem to begin with. Nothing ever gets fixed.

    1. Overtime

    It seems like every year, there's more and more overtime in the playoffs. After last night, in 28 games across the eight playoff series, nine games had gone into overtime. And pretty much all those games ended with crazy goals, too, as playoff overtimes are wont to do.

    You'll recall that the NHL record for overtime games in a season is 28 out of 85, set in 1993, and it'll be tough to get to that mark. But these teams sure do seem intent on trying. I think we're all fine with it.

    (Not ranked this week: Lightning goaltending.

    You really have to feel for Kristers Gudlevskis and Anders Lindback, who were never supposed to have been in this situation. Guys get hurt in the playoffs, obviously, and the Bolts probably never had much of a chance without Ben Bishop, but even if he'd been healthy, things have been going bad for this team between the pipes for a while now.

    Bishop, you'll recall, finished the year with a .924 save percentage and was a candidate for both the U.S. Olympic team and Vezina trophy. But over his last 18 games before getting hurt, he allowed 48 goals on just 500 shots (.904), and that's not a very flattering number at all.

    Whatever went bad for him — simple regression, one would think — also worked against Gudlevskis and Lindback in their four straight losses to the Canadiens. They allowed 16 goals in getting swept, which by my count is four per game, on 138 shots. It goes without saying that you can't stop only .884 across four games and hope to win.

    But with that said, those poor goalies also got no help. This Lightning team that was so good in possession all season got crushed at even strength, with a fenwick share of just 43.6, and they scored just two goals at even strength to support their netminders.

    With those numbers, nothing really would have helped, but the inability to stop pretty much anything ever means even Bishop at his worst would have been an improvement.)

  • No. 1 Star: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

    Kane was his usual dynamic self in Game 4 versus the St. Louis Blues, scoring twice, including the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory, and adding an assist. His game-winner was a remarkable bit of poise, as he backed off the defense before beating Ryan Miller high. 

    No. 2 Star: Alex Goligoski, Dallas Stars

    Skating a game-high 32:48 in the Stars' 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks that evened the series at two, Goligoski led the Stars with two points, a goal and an assist. Cody Eakin got the game-winner, but Goligoski's goal was the one that put the Ducks away. Check out the assist from Vernon Fiddler:

    No. 3 Star: Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

    Dubinsky scored a huge goal in the Blue Jackets' 4-3 comeback win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, tying the game with just 24 seconds to go. He also picked up an assist on Ryan Johansen's powerplay goal that cut the Penguins' lead in half:

    Honorable mention: Marc-Andre Fleury made 42 saves in the Penguins' loss... That was Columbus's first home playoff win in franchise history.

    Did You Know? A little over a week into the Stanley Cup playoffs, we've already seen 9 two-goal leads lost. It really is the worst lead in hockey.

    Dishonorable mention: Marc-Andre Fleury was sort of the reason for the Penguins' loss.

  • There's an old saying when it comes to the playoffs: a series hasn't even begun until a team wins one on the road. 

    Supposing that's true, through four games, the first-round series between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues has yet to even begin. After going down 2-0 in St. Louis, the Blackhawks did what they had to, winning both of their home game.

    The Game 4 victory came thanks to Patrick Kane, who gave them a 4-3 overtime win with this beautiful overtime winner:

    You could see this one coming, and not just because we know Kane has a playoff gear because he has a playoff haircut, or because he was in that gear all night, with 2 goals and an assist. 

    He was dancing all overtime. You had to worry about what would happen if he got a little time and space, and what do you know, this is what happened.

    There are few players in the NHL more terrifying on an odd-man rush, because Kane can just about do it all. We've seen him make incredible passes, and we've seen him deke his way through the defense to get to the goal, so you have to respect both options. That means he's almost always going to have time to shoot, if he wants.

    The Blues were close to taking a stranglehold on this series. After falling behind by two in the game, they clawed their way back to even things up with two goals in the final two minutes of the second period, then Vladimir Tarasenko put them ahead midway through the third.

    But they couldn't hold the lead, a common theme in this series, and heck, these playoffs as a whole. Bryan Bickell scored to tie the game back up four minutes later, leading to sudden death overtime, where the Blues died suddenly.

    With that, the series shifts back to St. Louis for Game 5, and suddenly, all's the pressure on the Blues. Will they get David Backes back? And if not, can they still reverse Chicago's cresting momentum?

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